Many people jokingly call themselves sugar addicts. While we say this primarily in jest, there is some truth to the notion that sweet foods are addictive. In fact, one recent study suggested that high-calorie foods rival cocaine and tobacco in their addictiveness.
It can be hard to kick any addiction, but medicinal herbs can help to curb the strong sugar-cravings that some addicts experience. In general, the following herbs are considered to be safe and associated with few or no side effects. However, it is always wise to consult a health care provider before using any medicinal herb.
Gymnema has been used in India for thousands of years as a treatment for diabetes and obesity. Compounds in this versatile herb in gymnema temporarily fill the mouth with a sweet flavor, then temporarily eliminate the tastebuds’ response to sweetness. If you chew gymnema before eating, sweets will be decidedly less satisfying; soda will taste like carbonated water. The effect persists for roughly two hours. Gymnema has the added benefit of reducing spikes in blood-glucose levels.
Stevia, also known as sweetleaf, contains no calories but imparts a taste that is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Stevia increases insulin production and lowers blood-glucose levels, unlike most sweeteners which impart an opposite effect. Use stevia in place of sugar or artificial sweeteners in your recipes and beverages.
American and Asian ginseng both help to reduce blood-glucose levels while curbing sugar cravings. Ginseng supplements enable the body to adapt to stress with fewer fluctuations in appetite, mood or sleep patterns. Because of this, it is an ideal herbal treatment for people who overeat because of emotional stress. Herbs with similar effects include ashwagandha, rhodiola and eleuthero.
If you continue to experience strong sugar cravings after using these herbal supplements, you may benefit from joining a support network or receiving counseling. A certified dietitian can help you find foods that satisfy your sweet tooth, while a therapist may offer the necessary emotional support. Your love of sugar doesn’t have to rule your life, your diet or your body. If you commit to kicking the habit, you’ll find yourself feeling healthier and happier than ever.
CNN: Fatty Foods May Cause Cocaine-like Addiction
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Characteristics of antisweet substances, sweet proteins, and sweetness-inducing proteins
Daniel Mowrey, PhD: Life with Stevia- How Sweet it is!
National Institutes of Health: Medline Plus- Ginseng